The Seljuk Han of Anatolia 

CAY HAN


External view of ay Han

Covered section showing lantern dome

ay Medrese

ay medrese, arch detail

DISTRICT
03 AFYONKARAHISAR

LOCATION
The ay Han is located on the Afyon-Akşehir Road, in the center of the town of ay.

 

The han was situated at the crossroads of two different caravan routes, one leading to Bolvadin and the other to Afyon. No traces of this old caravan route, which was mentioned in Ottoman sources as a military road, exist today. The next han in the direction of Akşehir is the Sultandağ Işakli Han and this han is the last one before Afyon.  A medrese with the same name is situated near the han.
 

NAMES

Ebl Mcahit Yusuf Han, as recorded on the inscription.

The han is referred to as the Taş (Stone) Han by the locals due to its building material.


DATE
1278-79 (dated by inscription). This han bears the last dated inscription for a Seljuk han. This is one of the last of the 13th century hans, and was built during the period of Mongol rule (Ilkhanid Period).

REIGN OF
Giyaseddin Keyhsrev III (1264-83)

INSCRIPTION

The inscription, placed over the crown door in two separate plaques, is written in Seljuk-style nakshi calligraphy with two lines. It reads as follows"the construction of this han was ordered by the helper of the world and the faith, the great Sultan Keyhsrev, son of Kilı Arslan in his time - may Allah protect his reign - by his servant Yusuf, son of Yakub - may  Allah  forgive his sins - in 677 (1278 AD)".

This appears to be the last dated Seljuk inscription on a han. The inscription also reveals the name of the architect, Ogul Bey bin Mehmed.

 

PATRON
According to the inscription, both the han and the Taş Medrese next door were built as a charitable foundation supported by the patron Ebl Mucahit bin Yakup, who was an important commander and statesman in the time of the Seljuk Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhsrev III. The architect is listed as Oğul Beğ bin Mehmet, who is also assumed to be the architect of the medrese. No information exists concerning this architect.

 

BUILDING TYPE
Covered section with an open courtyard (COC)
Covered section is smaller than the courtyard
Covered section with 5 naves (a central nave and 2 naves on each side, perpendicular to the rear wall)
5 lines of support cross vaults parallel to the rear wall

DESCRIPTION
The building faces south.

 

The plan of the han consists of a covered section for lodging and shelter and an open courtyard which included service facilities. The courtyard to the north of the covered section is now demolished, but the remains of the outer walls indicate the original dimension of the courtyard, which was wider than the covered section. The covered section comprises 5 naves, with four support walls carried by four piers each, connected to each other by five pointed arches in each nave. The central nave is higher and wider than the side naves, and the naves are covered by pointed vaults. A dome supported by triangular squinches is located in the center of the covered section. Lighting is provided by this dome and single slit windows on the east and west walls and three windows in the south wall.

 

The han is the last example of a covered section with five naves.

 

As the courtyard is now demolished, it is not possible to determine the type of service facilities it contained or whether there was a mosque or not.

The han has two external triangular support towers on each of the side walls and the rear wall of the covered section, which are also seen at the ardak, Alara, Ertokuş, Sari and Sarafsa Hans.

 

The walls of the han were made of pitch-faced stone, filled with rubble and mortar. The dome, the dome transition elements and the transept arches are built with brick up to the vaults, which are considered to be original and not due to later repairs.

 

A turbe (tomb) is located in the northwestern corner. There is an inscription in the nearby medrese that states that was built by the same man, Ebl Mcahit bin Yakup, once again asking for mercy for his sins.

 

The ay Han was built at the same time as the Taş Medrese in 1278. The medrese was built by the same patron and a historic fountain is nearby. The crown door of the medrese bears a similar lion medallion as the one over the door of the han. A bath, located between the medrese and the han, was recently unearthed during excavations in 1972, and is believed to date from the same period as the han.

DECORATION
The only decoration in the building is seen over the crown door of the covered section, and it is noteworthy. There is a flattened arch above the crown door, whose voussoirs consist of stones of alternating colors. The fan-shaped half-dome of the crown door and the geometrical braiding of the corner pendentives enhances its appearance. The door is framed by small columns with square capitals with vegetal decoration resembling tree branches. Of special note is the figure of a walking lion with a dragon's tail set inside a medallion over the keystone of the arch. The door is also framed by large triangles and lozenges. There is a niche on each side of the inner face of the crown door opening, whose tops are shaped like oyster shells.

 

DIMENSIONS
Total external area: 1750m2
Area of hall: 575m2
Area of courtyard: 925m2

STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The farm town of ay (principal crops are sugar beets and cherries; note the sculpture of an open hand holding cherries in the town's main roundabout) was approximately 15 km from the epicenter of a 6.0 earthquake on February 3-4, 2002. This major earthquake destroyed much of the town's center, including the local mosque, but little damage was sustained by the han.

 

The han was repaired in 1844. It was substantially restored in 2007-2008, but is not open for visits, although one can view the interior through the front door. The interior has been equipped with shops but they are empty for the present time. The courtyard section is now used as a public garden.

 

Those visiting the han should not miss viewing the neighboring Taş Medrese (now used as a mosque; entry at prayer times only. The sign on the door says "Allattin Cami 1258). This medrese offers some of the most spectacular Seljuk tile design in all of Turkey. The bowties on the entry panel and the woven designs of the mihrab are noteworthy. Yet it is the dome that is the the most stunning element of this monument. The triangle pattern on the dome, the drum rim with its pseudo-kufic border and the squinches with their sunburst designs are a memorable sight to behold: it is as if a Turkish rug were transposed in blue above your head.
 


BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES
Acun, pp. 380-389 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 455; 486.

Bayrak, p. 27.
Erdmann, pp. 147-150, no. 39.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 43-44.

Rice, p. 206.



 

 

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